Albrecht Durer was a printmaker and painter a major figure in the Northern Renaissance. Durer’s family was originally from Hungary, though his father moved the family to Nuremburg, Germany in the late 1400s and later Germanicized their last name, eventually adopting the name of Durer. The son of a goldsmith and nephew of a printer, Durer was exposed to artistic crafting from an early age. The woodcut prints that his godfather printed would be something which would influence his art for the rest of his life as Durer was well known for prints of his own.
The first self-portrait that Durer finished was when he was only thirteen years old. It was a silverpoint drawing, something which he wouldn’t work as extensively with in later years. One of his most famous self-portraits is his Self Portrait at 28. Durer looks directly out at the viewer, his eyes staring directly into ours. He is wearing a brown coat with fur trim, nothing overly ostentatious as are sometimes associated with the Renaissance. The most striking feature of the portrait is the resemblance between Durer and how Christ is commonly portrayed in art. The long, wavy brown hair, beard, and mustache are all common attributes to the likeness of Christ in art. This likeness is more than coincidence. It likens the artist to god in that both are creators, a very godly attribute indeed.
Durer was also very influential in the development of modern landscape painting. During the Renaissance and in earlier times as well, landscapes were not considered ‘proper’ subjects. Many painters rejected both landscape painting and genre painting entirely as nothing in either subject could be sold. ‘Proper’ paintings were those that portrayed religious or historical subjects or were portraits. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that artists began to dabble in landscape painting, adding small figures in the distance and calling them after saints on journeys and similar topics as a scapegoat for being allowed to paint the vast, sweeping vistas they wished. Durer, however, made no attempt to make such a distinction. He painted landscapes as they were, not trying to hide the fact that it was the land itself he was interested in and not history or religion. One such painting is Aquarelle, la Trefilerie. A small village is portrayed in this painting. A river meanders through the town. Houses and other buildings dot the landscape intermittently. Rolling plains are broken into sections by the trees. In the distance mountains rise, a purple blue haze against the sky. Durer was a pivotal character in Northern Renaissance painting. He began to establish the acceptance of landscape painting as a fine art form, something that was just as worthy of praise and awards as any religious or historical subject. Today, Durer is one of the most well-known artists from central Europe.